School Bus Safety Week

Getting students safely to school on board an ACPS bus each day is more than just a job for the devoted transportation staff within the school division. Recognizing the dedication of our school transportation team, we celebrate National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 18-22, and Virginia School Bus Transportation Employees Appreciation Day on Oct. 20, with a Certificate of Recognition issued by Governor Ralph Northam.

The governor’s proclamation recognizes the importance of safe and efficient student transportation and the significant impact a school bus driver has on a student’s education. “Parents are assured that once their students leave their homes for school, they are in good hands with our bus drivers,” noted Everette Scott Merriman, ACPS director of pupil transportation and fleet management (PTFM). The drivers “are always there to make sure that students go to and from school, safely and on time,” Merriman adds.

School bus safety actually begins before students ever hop on board. Pupil Transportation and Fleet Management at ACPS operates 118 school buses; five of those being totally electric, battery-powered vehicles. Preventative maintenance is key to keeping safe buses on the road. “All buses are inspected every 45 days or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first”, according to Merriman. He says part of the safety protocol involves assigning the operator to drive the same bus each day and to be educated on carrying out the proper inspection criteria to reduce service failures. Merriman adds that proactive vehicle repair saves costs and eliminates fix-on-failure maintenance.

School Bus Safety Week also serves as a reminder of how all ACPS students and families can do their part. Merriman provides the basics:

  • Walk with your young children to the bus stop and wait with them until the bus arrives. Make sure drivers can see the kids at your bus stop.
  • Teach kids to stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches and board the bus one at a time.
  • Teach kids to wait for the school bus to come to a complete stop before getting off and not to walk behind the bus.
  • If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, they should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver and cross when the driver indicates it is safe. Teach kids to look left, right and left again before crossing the street.

School bus safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic also means all students and staff must properly wear a face mask over their nose and mouth for the entire time onboard the bus.

There is a need for qualified school bus drivers at ACPS. The division prides itself on having drivers who exhibit patience with students, are punctual and outgoing. “A great school bus driver feels a great sense of pride in their job. They are the biggest factor in students getting to and from school safely and will be proud of that fact,” adds Merriman who urges those who fit that description to apply online.

With a great sense of pride as we mark National School Bus Safety Week, Merriman salutes ACPS’ school bus drivers who navigate large school buses over city streets while managing a lively group of students in transport simultaneously. “They are the best!” Merriman said.